Much-loved shop and post office saved by villagers
- Credit: Archant
A much-valued community shop and post office which was under threat of closure when the previous owners retired has been saved after villagers rallied to take on the business.
Felsham Post Office Stores, near Bury St Edmunds, was previously run by Jon and Sue Nicholls but when the couple annouced they would be retiring at the end of 2018, no-one stepped forward to take on the shop.
Worried about losing their local shop, villagers from Felsham and neighbouring Gedding sprung into action.
A public meeting was called and a small committee was formed to consider the options available.
The community secured an Asset of Community Value (ACV) listing from Mid Suffolk District Council, and with support from the Plunkett Foundation and Mr and Mrs Nicholls, a new venture was born.
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The shop and post office opened its doors under community ownership on January 28, after just one weekend of closure, and trades as a Community Benefit Society – with everyone given the opportunity to have a say in operations by buying shares for £10 each.
The shop is staffed by unpaid volunteers with the committee of management, all villagers, carrying out the operational tasks.
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MP for Bury St Edmunds Jo Churchill officially opened the new venture on Saturday.
Ria Crosbie, chairman of the management committee, said: “We are delighted that we have been able to get this venture off the ground.
“It is an essential part of the two villages and along with the church, the village hall and the pub, all in touching distance, acts as a hub for village life.
“If the shop had closed it would have brought a lot of hardship for a lot of people unable to venture further afield for their basic needs.
“We intend to enhance what we offer and are aiming to stock locally produced products.
“We want to encourage as many people as possible to volunteer in the shop. It is a rewarding task. Anyone interested should get in touch either via our website or just pop into the shop.”
Julie Flatman, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “The opening of the Felsham and Gedding Community Stores has been a great achievement of the local community, and the fact they reopened after just a single weekend of closure is testament to the hard work and passion the community have put in.
“I wish the stores the very best of luck, and hope their example will encourage other communities to come forward, learn about their community rights and revitalise other well-loved assets across our district.”
Penny Otton, county and district councillor for Felsham and Gedding, said: “I congratulate the community for working so hard to keep their shop and post office open. “We all know just how important local facilities are in our rural villages and I wish them great success in keeping this one open for many years to come.”